George R. Vidusic
386th Bomb Group, 552nd Bomb Squadron, Bomb Disposal Squad
Receiving the French Legion Medal of Honor
Ceremony on Wednesday, 10/28/09 with both sons George on left, Ralph on right
|WWII veterans given French honors
Six Michigan men are awarded the Legion of Honor Medal for their wartime heroics
Steve Pardo / The Detroit News
Detroit -- They fought in Normandy, in the Ardennes and Northern France campaigns and helped liberate towns from Nazi occupiers in the pivotal months of World War II.
For those efforts, six Michigan veterans were awarded for their wartime heroics Wednesday with the French Legion of Honor Medal, the highest honor the county bestows. It was created by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 and is widely considered one of Europe's most prestigious civic honors.
"Thanks to their courage, to our American friends and allies, France has been living in peace for the past six decades. We shall never forget," said Jean-Baptiste de Boissière, Consul General of France, based out of Chicago.
They served with different divisions and different roles: field artillery, infantry, military police and bombardment. They were, however, united in their efforts in beating back the Germans, de Boissière said.
About 30 people gathered at the John D. Dingell Veteran's Affairs Medical Center to witness the ceremony honoring Chester Miles, 86, of Brighton; William McKeon, 86 of Hartland; John Roberts, 85, of Bloomfield Hills; George Vidusic, 85, of Livonia; Valerian Przygocki, 86, of Bay City; and Otis J. Conrad of Columbiaville, north of Lapeer. Conrad was given the medal posthumously. He died last September at the age of 85.
"Our countries have been together a long time," said Roberts, as de Boissière pinned the medal to his lapel.
"It's like a marriage. You don't always get along -- there are a few disagreements -- but you survive."
The award was previously only awarded to American military personnel from World War I. But in 2004, the 60th anniversary of D-Day, France began honoring World War II American soldiers. About 800 medals have been awarded over the last five years.
The six honored Wednesday served in dozens of campaigns and collected more than 40 medals and other accolades for their service. The medals included Purple Hearts, Bronze Battle Stars, and Good Conduct medals. There were tears from audience members and from the veterans themselves during the medals presentation.
"I was petrified all the time I was there," said Miles, who enlisted in January of 1943 at the age of 19. "Anybody who says that they weren't -- they're lying. But I had a job to do and I did it. I was lucky."
"This is the greatest generation, no doubt about it," said Vidusic's son, Ralph.
"There never was a generation like that. And there probably will never be again."